THEMULTIPLELAYERSOF SNOW

by beaple leone michaelmas

SUMMARY: What if Miyazawa and Arima never met in high school? What if they met in a college-level Global Studies class instead? And what if said class took a field trip to the mountains and got stranded?

Disclaimer:

I do not own Kare Kano; the whole concept belongs to Tsuda Masami-sensei.

This fanfic is based on the anime series His and Her Circumstances.

Chapter One of Three: Ice

Asaba Hideaki blinked several times in succession, his difficulty in comprehending the situation evident in his knotted eyebrows. "When you say the roads are blocked-"

"It means we're stranded," Kobayashi-sensei supplied patiently - he was used to such open-ended statements of his. "Until we get the go-signal to travel, we'll be staying here in Ebisu. [1] I suggest you inform your families immediately."

There was a collective groan as one by one, the students milling about the lobby of the town's only sizeable inn scattered to find quality spots from which to place their calls. The epitome of calm, Arima Souichirou merely stood in the center of the mumbling crowd, placid despite the curses and complaints that erupted around him.

Yesterday morning, his entire Global Studies class had taken a field trip to an isolated Nagoya town by bus, believing the heavy snowfall to be a temporary joke of nature instead of the long-term pestilence it was now turning out to be. To its credit, the tiny community of Ebisu was full of quaint novelties guaranteed to enchant your average tourist: hot springs, ancient teaware museums, and beautiful mountains soaring in jagged snowcapped peaks around it - not to mention, warm hospitable people who actually felt compelled to walk out of their houses each time the large crowd of students walked by. But Arima, who was only mildly interested in the field trip and its corresponding class, was beginning to think he should have filed for an early Christmas vacation instead.

Then again, he probably wouldn't have had the chance to confess to Miyazawa Yukino. At least, not in idyllic, snow-laden scenery that would have moved any other woman to throw herself into the arms of the man who was unabashedly declaring his affection and high regard for her. Too bad it failed to produce the desired effect on the great Miyazawa. All Arima had gotten in return for his valiant efforts at honesty were a blush and eyes shyly, studiously directed at a random point above his left shoulder. She'd think about it, she'd said, as the blush crept higher up her rather pale face. At that moment, silent and pensive amidst dozens of his despairing peers, he vaguely wondered if one night had been enough for her to sort out whatever feelings she may or may not have for him...

His searching eyes found Miyazawa making her way out of the inn, stuck smack in the middle of a grumbling crowd that mindlessly inched forward like a herd of obedient sheep. He instinctively moved to follow her, planning to make small talk by asking what she felt regarding this enforced travel disruption, when suddenly, a strong, firm hand gripped the top of his arm and tugged at him carelessly.

"Souichirou," Asaba whined, determinedly raising his voice just to irritate his friend. "Let me borrow your phone."

"What for?" came Arima's disgruntled mumble-reply as his eyes continued to follow Miyazawa out of the lobby. "Use Tonami's phone, I'm busy-"

"I'm trying to curb my phone bills," explained Takefumi Tonami calmly, leisurely ambling over to where his two friends stood. "Besides," he added as he mock-glared at Asaba, "I don't want you using my number to call one of your girlfriends. I haven't forgotten Karina-"

"That's the one who kept sending you locks of hair, right-?"

"I'm serious," Asaba frowned, eyes darkening. "This is important. A matter of life and death."

His two friends exchange a meaningful glance, eyebrows raised in a single, shared question. If it wasn't about a girl... was it about his parents? His father?

"All right," Arima conceded, looking chagrined and taking his phone out of his pocket. "If you aren't going to call your girlfriend-"

"Well, technically, she's not my girlfriend yet-"

"That's it, you handle him," Arima instantly huffed to Takefumi, snatching his phone away before Asaba could close his fingers over it. "I need to go cool my head in a large slab of ice."

"That's cheap, Souichirou," Takefumi said solemnly, grabbing the pained-looking Asaba by the neck. "And I'm not talking about your little joke either."

Abandoning the only two people he had ever considered to be his close friends - an easy task given one was down of his knees pleading the other to let his collar go - he tried to run towards the front door of the inn, through which Miyazawa Yukino had walked just seconds ago.

The class of approximately thirty students had spilled into the front yard, some benched under leafless, gnarled branched trees, others standing in the middle of the pure-white blanket of snow that used to be a garden. He found Miyazawa's lone figure walking away distractedly, mobile phone held up to her ear as she jabbered away delightedly to whoever was on the other line. She seemed to be headed for a certain oak in one corner of the yard, where no one was hovering by due to its distance and the general laziness of teenagers. Arima, after a brief internal debate concerning whether to follow her or not, pulled his feet off the soft, chilly, bed of snow and trudged forward, fighting back a muttered curse that was aimed at himself.

"No, Dad, the guys and the girls aren't sleeping in the same rooms," Arima heard Miyazawa say once he had gotten close enough to eavesdrop. "No, our teacher does not allow us to wander on our own after hours - not that there's anything remotely dangerous in this place anyway."

Arima frowned at her harsh, subtly sarcastic inflection, confused. He had never heard her speak this way before. She had always been soft-spoken, mild-mannered, unassuming and prim. Now, she sounded like a typical spoiled schoolgirl, with her well-practiced methods of manifesting just the right amount of exasperation. And he was sure it wasn't a trick of the wind.

"No, Dad, what do you mean I- What?!" Miyazawa's shoulders squared, her body tensing as she paused to listen to what her father said. "Just give the phone to Mom, please? This call is going to drag on forever if you don't."

As Miyazawa whirled around and glared at the crowd loitering by the yard, Arima managed to rush behind a thick tree trunk nearby, slipping slightly in the slush. Had she sensed him? Should he turn back now? He had never thought of eavesdropping on anyone- it was something he wanted to keep from doing, something he should not be doing. Stealthily peeking around the trunk, he watched Miyazawa continue her conversation with her family, still staring at the crowd she had just distanced herself from. Arima was half-convinced to flee right then and there; he felt distinctly ashamed that he was crouching behind trees in the middle of a brewing snowstorm, eavesdropping on someone who was well out of his earshot. But as he watched her talk, his mind still hovering between propriety and an aching need to know, he saw her lips speak his name.

Arima Souichirou. He swore he could almost hear her whisper through the quiet whistling of the winter breeze. Worse still, she had finally taken her eyes off her target, disappearing behind the tree she had been leaning against, leaving Arima slack-jawed and gaping.

Afterwards, he assured himself he hadn't had much of a choice. Any guy would have done what he did - that is, race pell-mell several yards and listen to her voice and several muffled buzzing noises from the other side of the tree.

"What do you mean I like him?" Despite the intense jump in his heart rate, Arima managed to observe how fond she was of contradicting her family. "All right, fine. So maybe he is a little cute -and too smart for his own good - and popular - and, well, a lot of other things I've no doubt everybody else would love him for, but, Kano, don't you see? That's exactly why I don't like him. He hogs all the limelight in the one class I've managed to effortlessly excel in since University-"

He could almost hear Miyazawa frown and bite her lips as she fell silent to listen to the muffled reply. "Kano, I swear, you've been reading too much shojou manga. You wanna know what I think? I think you're desperate to find an outlet for all the romance you've been feeding yourself, that's why you're taking it out on your freezing, God-forsaken sister-!"

Another pause as furious bussing filled the air. "What do you mean I admire him?! I do NOT admire him. In fact, I seriously believe I've never hated anyone this madly before - not even Kinomoto from middle school. I don't even know anything about him apart from his student number and his test scores for the last two exams-! What?! Fine! I refuse to talk to you, too! I don't need an immature sister shrieking experimental love advice into my frosted ear!"

She pressed the End Call button so passionately that the keypad beep sounded more like a message alert tone. Muttering what sounded like obscenities in some ancient, undiscovered language, she began to crunch through the snow towards the direction she had come from, still furious and fuming.

For a still moment, Arima watched her retreating back. He had been rendered momentarily speechless by the one-sided conversation he had just heard. Should he feel mollified that she thought he possessed qualities 'everybody else would love him for'? Or should he be discouraged that she did not consider herself part of 'everybody else'?

"Miyazawa-"

She spun on her heels in utter shock, hair fanning out in fine strands, eyes gradually widening as she saw who was standing behind her. As Arima slowly walked forward, she pulled a gloved hand from her coat pocket and raised it to her lips, looking every bit the repentant society lady who had let slip a State secret. It was a remnant of the Miyazawa he knew - the Miyazawa he thought he knew.

"I couldn't help overhearing your conversation." Even to his ears, the words sounded stupid, borderling pathetic. "Were you referring to me... perhaps?"

"Arima, I-" She bit her lip, eyebrows meeting, and he found himself wondering if she was genuinely regretful of what she'd said. "That confession last night was just so... unexpected. I'd never imagined you'd... like me. We don't even know each other that well-"

"If you'll remember, I believe I also mentioned that I want to get to know you more," Arima replied cooly, perhaps with a bit more resentment than he initially intended. His patience was ebbing away - he could feel the positive energy abandoning him, the sudden pounding in his ears, wrists and head doing little to quell the temper he had chosen to counteract with a large dose of ice. "I don't remember ever doing anything to annoy or irritate you. In fact, I doubt I've ever done anything that justifies how you feel about me- except, maybe, exist?"

The freezing environment did nothing to prevent Miyazawa's face from visibly heating up. "Don't talk to me like that. I have the right to think what I wish to think, and I'm not going to change my opinion of you just because you've been eavesdropping on me-"

"I can't believe you're the same girl who selflessly offers to form study groups in class," Arima said in genuine disbelief.

"What are you going to do- tell on me?"

There was a heavy, pregnant pause as they locked eyes, each fully aware of what her words implied. Was that a challenge? Was he going to take it? What could he possibly threaten her with?

"You're from PolSci block P5, right?" Arima asked out of the blue, hit by the stark realization that was now constructing a brilliant plan in his mind. "One of the freshman blocks?"

"How'd you know that?!" Miyazawa demanded with mouth agape. Recovering as quickly as she had lapsed into frozen puzzlement, she did a rather ridiculous jumping motion on the snow, falling into a position that had one finger pointing accusingly at him. "You've been stalking me!"

"I've been asking around," he replied nonchalantly, at peace now that his brainchild had solidified, ready to be acted upon. "The fact is I know Izawa Maho personally, and I've heard the two of you are planning to face each other in the student council elections next year-"

"Oh, you really think I'll lose because I said something bad? Wait- it wasn't even bad-!"

"If Maho-chan-" Arima inwardly cringed at the ill-fitting honorific, disturbingly aware that the last time he had exchanged more than three consecutive words with his father's friend's daughter was two years ago, and that he had only heard of the rumor because he was planning to run for the pre-med department himself. "If she finds out you're not as prim and proper as you pretend to be, I'm sure she'll cook something up to get to you. She can be pretty nasty... as I'm sure you know."

Arima watched Miyazawa's face crumple into a guilty mask, much like that worn by kids desperate to conjure an excuse for breaking the proverbial antique vase. She was angry and upset - worse: crushed. For a split second the length of a suspended heartbeat, Arima considered retracting his threat, taking his words back. But as he saw, heard, felt her sigh - resigned, hesitant, but committed nonetheless - he congratulated himself for holding out.

He had never wanted anything anyone this madly before.

"Fine, what do you want me to do?" Miyazawa muttered, closely resembling a sulking little girl. "Don't tell me you want me to-?!"

"Whatever you're thinking, it's not as gruesome as that," Arima assured her, grimacing. "Just- let me take you out on dates." Despite his existing self-perception - he had previously believed himself to be made of thicker hide than this - he flustered furiously, and he was sure his embarrassment was plain for Miyazawa to notice even with her eyes shut. "We'll take it slowly. Don't worry, I'm not planning anything... sick."

"So we'll just go out?" Miyazawa clarified, suddenly hopeful. "Until the elections, at most?"

"Yes, until the elections." Although Arima was secretly determined to win her over before then. "And don't worry, nobody has to know."

"Somehow, I seriously doubt that," Miyazawa replied gloomily. Then, she perked up, as though inspired by a sudden brain wave. "But how about this for a consequence-?"

"No."

"You haven't even heard it yet!"

"You're not in a position to bargain here-"

"I'm training to be a lawyer. Humor me." She grinned mischievously without knowing she had, sending poor Arima's heart on consecutive bungee jumps. "To keep myself safe, if you do anything which I believe is hazardous to my physical, emotional or mental well-being, the deal's off. And no Izawa Maho."

"Since you're obviously depending on training bias to worm your way out of this, how about a little definition of terms?" Arima asked, enjoying himself immensely as he saw her pout. "What qualifies as hazardous?"

"Well, first off, no blood, no incapacitation of any kind-"

"Let's limit it to the physical."

"Fine, limited," Miyazawa agreed sourly. "Lastly, no getting me into trouble with the authorities - school, police, my parents."

"No blood, no incapacitation, no trouble," Arima repeated dutifully. "Still a bit vague but-"

"Don't complain!"

"I wasn't going to," Arima replied calmly. "Miyazawa, I..." He sighed, frustrated, and said, as sincerely as he could, "I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you. I wish you'd trust me when I say I just really want to get to know you more."

A brief moment - the flushing of cheeks, and gazes nervously skittering all over. And Miyazawa, stuttering, stammering, "L-like blackmail isn't intentional?"

Arima sighed again but chose not to comment. His top priority right now was to somehow stop Miyazawa from despising the very sight of him, and arguing with her every few seconds would do no help to improve their relationship.

"Listen," Arima began, the side-phrase meant partly to calm himself. "How about we have tea later? There's this really good teashop near the river-"

"I thought we were going to start slowly?"

Arima literally bit his tongue. "You do realize we're stranded in the middle of nowhere, right? I seriously doubt you've got anything to keep yourself occupied. In face, I'm willing to bet you'll get bored the moment this conversation ends-!"

"All right, a date it is," Miyazawa agreed grudgingly, throwing her hands up in surrender. "But don't look so smug."

Arima grinned anyway.

A/N:

Allo! The story's corny, yes, but I've fully given in to the visions of mush that get my stories done. Hope it wasn't too cheesy though. I'd also like to apologize for the OOCness. But mainly I'd like to apologize for Arima. He doesn't know what he's thinking.

Story inspired by the Iceland Volcano Travel Incident, circa (April) 2010.

Revenge of the Footnotes

[1] Ebisu. Fictional town based on another fictional town, Everwood, Colorado.